In Case You MIssed It: A High Level Overview of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) Iin Canada and What's New in Bill C-7

  • April 30, 2021
  • Carina Lentsch, principal lawyer, ACL LAW

On March 17, 2021, the federal Government passed Bill C-7: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), which legally expands access to MAID in Canada.

The bill was introduced in October 2020 following the decision of the Superior Court of Quebec in Truchon c. Procureur général du Canada, 2019 QCCS 3792 (CanLII). It received Royal Assent on March 17, 2021 and the changes to Canada’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) law are now in effect.

How did we get there?

MAID first became legal in Canada in 2016, following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Carter v. Canada, [2015] 1 SCR 331, which revisited its prior decision in Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1993] 3 S.C.R. 519.

In a unanimous decision, the Court in Carter held that sections 241(b) and 14 of the Criminal Code unjustifiably infringed section 7 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the prohibition against medical assistance in dying would no longer be valid to the extent that they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.

In response to the Carter decision, the Parliament of Canada passed Bill C-14 in June 2016, which permitted eligible adults to request medical assistance in dying and set out a process for how MAID could be accessed. According to the 2016 version of the law, to qualify for MAID a person must have a grievous and irremediable medical condition fulfilling the following criteria, all of which had to be met:

  1. they have a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability;
  2. their medical condition is characterized by an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;
  3. they are subject to enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and that cannot be relieved under conditions they consider acceptable; and
  4. their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.